The Citroen DS model automobile was first introduced at the 1955 Paris Auto Show. The Citroen at it's introduction was one of the more aerodynamic designed cars of that time. The design was very unique in every respect. It was a futuristic design from the French company that pioneered front wheel drive. Citroen was not the automaker to invent front wheel drive but it was the first to put it into mass production.
The company has been around for quite a long time being founded in 1919 by Andre-Gustave Citroen. The Frenchman was an industrialist and engineer and manufactured armaments and began his automobile company shortly after that. Citroen was very successful and the auto brand became the world's fourth largest during the 1930's. The French liked their Citroen automobiles. The Eiffel Tower at one time was lit up with lights spelling the Citroen name. Airplanes wrote the Citroen name on the skies over Paris.
Citroen eventually went bankrupt largely due to the Great Depression of the 1930's. Rather than disappearing, the company stayed in business after being taken over by Michelin who happened to be their largest creditor and tire supplier. Also in 1935 Andre-Gustave Citroen passed away at the age of 57 of stomach cancer. This was also the same disease that killed Edsel Ford of the Ford Motor Company in 1943.
The Long Run of the Citroen DS
The Citroen DS was produced from 1955 through 1975. The American DS model was last sold in the U.S. in 1972. The American models also had some differences compared to their European models.
During this long run the car had essentially the same design but with engine and mechanical improvements and alterations. Remarkably, the Citroen DS didn't receive it's first major alteration until eleven years after the car was introduced. The three-main bearing engine, dating back to the 11CV, was replaced with a higher output five-main bearing engine.
The automaker built sedans, station wagons and various ambulance and commercial variations. They even built Presidential Limousines which were in great favor at the time of Charle De Gaulle. Between the years of 1968 and 1972 the Citroen DS were built with four covered headlights where the inside lights turned with the wheels. They were also self leveling. This was the second major alteration to the original DS model.
The Citroen DS models had a large interior area compared to the car's overall size. This was achieved by positioning the wheels in the far corners of the body. Another very unique feature of the Citroen DS are the rear turn signal lights near the car's roof line.
During the twenty year span of production, Citroen built 1.5 million DS models. The Citroen DS automobiles sold pretty well in Europe but not in volumes in the U.S. Perhaps the design was better received in Europe than in the U.S. The Citroen DS came out in 1955 when America was hooked on big-finned automobiles.
The Citroen DS models were imported in US from 1956 until 1972
The Famous Citroen Hydro-Suspension
The hydro-pneumatic suspension, was powered by an engine pump raised the car as high as 10 inches through a lever inside. If you had a flat tire you could raise the car up until you could place a block under the frame to change the tire. No auto jack needed. Even if you didn't have a spare tire the Citroen DS-21 could ride on three tires by lifting the hub high above the ground with this type of suspension.
1971 Citroen DS-21 Specifications
The 1971 Citroen D models offered three different engines, all inline four cylinders. These included a 121 cubic inch delivering 103 horsepower, a 133 cubic inch delivering 115 horsepower and a 143 cubic inch with 125 horsepower.
All of these which were offered beginning in 1966 (the 143 cubic inch came out in 1971) were great advancements over the 117 cubic inch with it's 60 horsepower inline four that came out with the original model in 1955.
Transmission for the car was a five speed manual.
Front and rear suspension consisted of an Independent, hydropneumatic sphere.
The dimensions of the 1971 Citroen DS-21 included a wheelbase of 123.0 inches, an overall length of 191.9 inches, an overall width of 71.0 inches and a height 57.9 inches. The car's curb weight was 2,888 lbs.
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Two books regarding the Citroen DS Models and Andre-Gustave Citroen include Citroen DS: The Complete Story by author Jon Pressnell and Andre Citroen: The Man and the Motor Cars by author John Reynolds.
Citroen DS Series Collector Cars
The Citroen DS has a very unique design which may make it appealing to some collectors. Add to that the unique four headlight configuration and the Hydro Suspension and the automobile certainly is different from most others.
The Citroen DS is a good starter collector car for the prices are relatively inexpensive. Depending on the year and the condition and whether the car has been restored, you may find asking prices from about $5,000 to $12,000. Even more for museum mint condition DS models. The 1955 Citroen DS would be valued as a milestone automobile.
Some have restored Citroen DS models. If you do locate one to restore you should be able to pay a reasonable price. The car model was produced for twenty years meaning that there should be parts available however they likely won't be cheap. A restorer may also want to find a good mechanic because finding shops in the U.S. that handle French automobiles may be hard to find.
(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)